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Mountain biking from Kleine Scheidegg to Wengen, above Interlaken (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler)

The “Interlaken Seven” Adrenaline Sports Challenge

Does basketball bore you? Do you seek dangerous situations that make your heart thud uncontrollably? Do you only feel sporty when strapped into a harness and/or helmet? If so, then come to Interlaken and pick your personal poison!

I arrived in this unassuming Swiss town one week ago and ever since, I’ve been offered every kind of outrageous activity human minds have conceived of thus far. Yes, most of these “sports” are available in other parts of the world, but I don’t know anywhere else where you can do all of them in one place.  Such is the allure of Interlaken and such is the challenge I offer to all of you hardcore adrenaline junkies out there. Can you do them all?

Welcome to my “Interlaken Seven” — seven adrenaline-pumping summertime sports that will put you in touch with the mountains in one way or another. Because I’m a total chicken, I’ve only managed a few of these, but I double-dog dare you to one-up me and do them all. (I dare you!)

  1. Paragliding Welcome to the world capital for soaring through Alpine valleys by parachute! Interlaken was made for paragliding, lined on either side with perfect mountain perches and lots of clear, still days in which to run off the edge and float ever-so-gently back down to the picturesque valley below.  Tandem flights are inexpensive and require no experience, so if you’ve ever wanted to try it, this is the place to do it.
  2. Canyoning If you’ve ever stared at your washing machine spin cycle and dreamed of climbing inside, then canyoning is your sport. Donning protective gear, you basically toss yourself down a violent rocky Alpine river and hopefully come out smiling at the other end. (It’s very fun.)
  3. Whitewater rafting Like canyoning, except you use a boat, though it’s not a very seaworthy boat—more like a floating towel that can bounce you overboard at any moment. That’s part of the fun. Rafting in Alpine streams can be faster and tighter than what you may be used to, but most Interlaken outfitters offer different levels of intensity (up to Class IV rapids).
  4. Rope course The mother-of-all rope courses is strung up at Seilpark Interlaken and after the first hour, you’ll feel like a spider. After the second hour you’ll feel like a monkey. This is great for young and old, with some options more extreme than others. For a better idea of what you’re getting yourself in to, watch this video.
  5. Mountain biking Biking the Alps is a tad more extreme than what you’ll find back home (trust me) and the scenery is just staggering. Be warned: this is no passive bike ride past a few friendly cows (though there are a few brief feelgood moments like that). For me, biking the Jungfrau was one day of pure awesome and even with all my bumps and bruises, I’d totally do it again. One tip though: when racing downhill, rely on your rear brake instead of your front wheel brake. (And wear a helmet!)
  6. Bungy jumping Swiss-style is from a cable car, which adds to the rush as you’re dangling from the sky on a thread. Or, choose to hop off into a deep and treacherous glacier gorge and get pulled right back out again, not unlike a yo-yo. All in good fun.
  7. Skydiving If you’d rather skip straight to the good stuff and throw yourself out of a plane or helicopter, Interlaken will happily oblige you. Safety standards are very high in Switzerland and on a clear day, you can look up in the sky and if you’re lucky, you’ll see someone doing their first tandem dive. Most likely, you’ll be jealous.

Let me finish by quelling any fears you might have about serious injury. First off, this is Switzerland, so accidents are against the law (#joke).  Secondly, Interlaken is home to a very lovely emergency room staffed by cordial English-speaking doctors and nurses who are remarkably experienced in patching up all of us adrenalin junkies out there.

My one serious travel tip for Interlaken? Take your time. This is the gateway for the Bernese Oberland with all of its mountains and weather changes. You’ll have some perfect days to get out there and take on the mountains and then you might have an off day, when the clouds roll in and the rain will fall.

It would be a pity if a tight schedule caused you to miss one of the aforementioned thrills, so cushion your visit with a day or two of leeway. Then get out there and jump, fall, crash, rush, bounce, fly and then land (safely) in dear, sweet Interlaken.

Be safe, have fun and if you manage to do ALL of the Interlaken Seven, let me know. I’ll totally put you in my hall of fame, on this blog. Really.